Michigan LGBT advocates will proceed with a planned meeting for Catholic parents of LGBT children today after being barred from the Catholic parish that was set to host it.
Archbishop Allen Vigneron banned Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit from hosting the Fortunate Families support group because Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry is scheduled to speak. According to organizer Linda Karle-Nelson, the parish hosted a similar gathering last year and this change of venue greatly disrupts the event. She told The Detroit Free Press:
” ‘It’s really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in…The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here…The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in.’ “
DeBernardo, who heads New Ways Ministry, noted how far Vigneron’s action is from Pope Francis’ welcoming style and added:
” ‘I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can’t be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children.’ “
Christ the King’s pastor, Fr. Victor Clore, is also baffled by the archbishop’s decision, telling the Free Press:
” ‘I’ll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: “It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church’…
” ‘That’s pretty much my feeling, too…It’s treating people as if they were children.’ “
Archbishop Vigneron’s record on LGBT issues has not been positive. In the past, he has warned that pro-marriage equality Catholics should not receive Communion (though his auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton thought otherwise) and is on record saying Pope Francis “didn’t say anything different” on homosexuality.
In contrast, Karle-Nelson and her husband, Tom, were awarded by PFLAG for their pastoral efforts within the church through Fortunate Families. They have led protests at the Detroit chancery and stood by Dignity/Detroit when its 39th anniversary celebrations came under fire from the archdiocese.
Fox 2 News of Detroit quoted DeBernardo explaining a bit about the content of his talk:
“Pope Francis has demonstrated openness on these issues and he has called for greater discussion of them as we saw in the synod at the Vatican last month. I wish the Archdiocese of Detroit had inquired more deeply about the substance of my talk. They would have found that it is very Catholic on its content.”
His talk is about how the recent synod on marriage and the family discussed gay and lesbian people. In the talk, he quotes almost entirely from bishops and cardinals, as well as the pope.
Please keep the Fortunate Families group in your prayers today as they meet at an alternate location. These dedicated parents and family members are answering Pope Francis’ call to create a church that is “home for all” through dialogue and welcome.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry